Today we’re talking about the most important thing in your wallet, your Driver’s License! How to get one? Who can get one? And how to get out of trouble if you don’t have one?
- If you’re driving on Texas roads, you need a valid driver’s license. In some cases, it doesn’t have to be a Texas license, but you’ve got to have a license if you’re driving.I get it, stuff happens. Your license might be expired, you may have gotten a ticket with a warrantand some omni fees, but stop being lazy and fix those problems so you can be on the road legally.
- If you drive without a license, you’ll face fines and jail time! What happens if you get popped with driving without a license (DWLI)?
First time, it’s up to a $200 fine; second time, another fine; third time, now you’re looking at jail time and if you got popped for DWLI with no insurance, that elevates the level of offense to a Class B misdemeanor with more possible jail time. Or if it’s no license, no insurance and an accident with serious injury and you’re at fault, that’s a Class A misdemeanor with up to 365 days in jail.
Don’t mess around with this stuff!
- Getting a license is easier than you think! Let’s start with: how do we get a license?
Well, it just depends on if you’ve ever had one, if you are going to renew your license, or if you’re from out of state.
(1) You’ve never had a driver’s license:
Whether you just never got one, or you’re finally of age to drive, you’re going to have to…
- Go in person;
- Take Driver’s Ed. or some type of driving test;
- Complete written exam;
- Pass the vision exam; and
- Meet all the other requirements.
(2) You need to renew your Texas driver’s license:
You can do that online for up to two years after expiration. If it’s been two years and it’s been expired for that amount of time, you’re going to have to reapply and do the driving and written tests all over again.
(3) You’re in from out-of-state:
It takes 90 days for you to become a Texas resident if you’ve lived in another state or country first.
You have that 90-day window to go ahead and get your Texas driver’s license, but if you don’t get that license after 90 days in Texas, you can get a ticket for driving without a license or driving while license is invalid. If you live in Texas, you need a license in Texas.
Make an appointment at the DMV now!
These appointments are filling up for end of October / early November depending on which DMV you’re going to because the DMV is doing everything by appointment only.
Once you get to the DMV, what proof do you need to have?
You need to provide:
- Proof that you’re a Texas resident, a US citizen or have lawful presence here
(I talk about lawful presence a little bit more, below);
- Proof of identity
(passport, ID, ID from another state, driver’s license from another state); and
- Proof of social security number.
Now, if you have a car, you need proof of registration and insurance. If you don’t have a car, let’s say you’re a teenager or you drive your parents car, you will need to sign a document or affidavit saying “I don’t have a car, so I don’t have to have registration or insurance” and like I said, you’ve got to pass that vision exam.
If you’re an older adult, 79 and older, they will make you come into the DMV in person, even if your license is just newly expired or it’s been less than two years. No online for you!
4. You can get holds removed in a matter of days.
This situation happens when your license is suspended, or you don’t have a license because of holds. When you’ve gotten a traffic ticket that turns into a warrant, an omni fee will be assessed.
What are Omni Fees?
An omni fee is a pesky $30 fee that there is literally no way to get out of. But what happens is, DPS puts a hold on your license so when you go to try to renew your driver’s license, they say, “sorry, you got warrants! You got holds! Can’t do it!”
You can get rid of your holds in two ways:
(1) You can pay the ticket and warrant.
Go down to whatever court, pay the warrant fee + pay the full price of the ticket + pay the Omni fee, which could be hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on how many you have. Then the hold will be released in a period of time and you can go get your license.
Paying your tickets admits guilt, which results in CONVICTIONS on your record.
(2) You can hire an attorney.
An attorney will get the warrant lifted pretty much immediately and fight those tickets! All you’ll have to pay is the attorney’s fee and the omni fees. While the tickets are pending, you get the hold off and you get your license back.
NO CONVICTIONS! This option is significantly cheaper than the other.
Note: there’s no rhyme or reason which cases is get omni fees, which cases don’t, but it’s always in situations where you failed to appear for a court hearing and ended up with a warrant or you failed to do what you were supposed to, like take Defensive Driving, pay a fine, something like that, and end up with a warrant.
Are you eligible to get your Driver’s License?
If you don’t have any idea if you’re eligible for a driver’s license, we can check that for you. Just give my office a call or shoot us an email.
What about License Suspensions?
Some of you have license suspensions and have had them for a while. Your license could have gotten suspended based on a DWI conviction or accusation, the fact that you didn’t pay your tickets, or whatever the case may be. Luckily, the Driver’s Responsibility Program was eliminated last year. That’s the program that assessed hundreds or thousand dollars of fees (“surcharges”) to get your license back. If you had surcharges on your license, those are wiped away free of charge.
All you need to do is pay a reinstatement fee to get your license back, assuming you don’t have any active warrants or omni fees outstanding.
If you have tickets in other jurisdictions, let’s say you picked up a ticket in Pecos or Dallas or something like that and those have warrants and omni fees, you need to take care of those before you can get your license.
- You can get a Texas driver’s license if you aren’t a US citizen or even a Texas resident!
What about non-US citizens?
Not only are US citizens eligible for a Texas driver’s license, but also some forms of non-citizens that have lawful presence in the United States as well, like lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees. Getting a license is easy!
Even some other categories of non-residents can get one as well. For example, anyone that is here for a temporary purpose and has lawful presence (think Visa holders), can get a limited-use Texas driver’s license that expires when their status in the United States expires, up to one year.
If you’re a non-resident, for example, you live in Mexico and work in the United States, you’re not required to get a Texas driver’s license, unless you’re going back and forth for a year or more.
You can live in Mexico, come across the border to work in the US and use your Mexican driver’s license for that.
The trouble is that officers here in El Paso tend to ticket drivers that don’t have proof that they still live in Juarez, for example, so bring proof! If you do get a ticket, you can hire an attorney that could submit proof to the court or you can go to court yourself, show them a bill, a paycheck stub, something saying that your residence is still in Mexico, and then you should get that ticket dismissed and you’re good to go from there.
Even non-residents can apply for commercial driver’s licenses if they meet the requirements on the DPS website, so if you have a job that requires a CDL but you’re not a resident, as long as you have a lawful presence here, you’re good to go.
All of these non-resident driver’s license, however, have to be applied for in person.
- Change your information ASAP! Finally, if you change your information, let’s say you change your gender identifier from male to female or vice versa; if you get married or get a divorce or do a name change of any type; or if you move from physical location from let’s say an apartment to a different address; those changes need to be made within 30 days.
If you are out of state coming into El Paso or into Texas, you’ve got that 90-day window.
Those are the situations in which you’ve got to get that driver’s license changed to reflect accurate information.
If you have any questions about how to get a driver’s license, give me a call, we’re here to help. We’ll stay on the phone with you as long as we need to so that you know exactly what you have to do to stay on the road legally.